Fan Into Flame

When we lived in Southern California, a massive fire ravished the San Gabriel mountains, destroying 1,000 homes and forcing many to evacuate. Rumor had it the fire was started by a cigarette casually flicked. Others said the fire was started by an arsonist. Regardless the source, the initial spark turned exponential until it devoured 90,000 acres, becoming the largest fire San Bernadino County had ever seen.

Fire is a powerful thing. When fed, it grows to unquenchable proportions, its heat radiating for miles. We’ve all heard stories of raging forest fires started by a single match. I’m sure we’ve also all experienced the frustration of trying to set kindling ablaze.

I’ve been on a handful camping trips, and try as I might, I can barely ignite a few measly twigs. I’ll use matches, gasoline and crumpled paper. I’ll blow and fan the air. I’ve tried leaves and straw, which initially catches only to smolder into a puff of black smoke. What’s the difference between my efforts and the 2004 forest fire that raged through Southern California?

Both started with a spark, yet one grew while the other dwindled. The difference, I believe, is the forest was ripe, ready to combust. We’d had little water and intense heat, so it didn’t take much to set the trees ablaze. Then came the wind, fueling the flames with a steady supply of oxygen until the entire forest blazed.

This image came to mind when I read 2 Timothy 1:6. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flames” the spiritual gift God gave him.

In essence, Paul was saying, “Lay it all on the line, Timothy. Don’t let anything hold you back from full surrender. When others pull away, step up. Burn like a wildfire!”

Note, he wrote this letter to Timothy, a man Paul loved like a son, from a prison cell. During a time of extreme persecution, when many might’ve been tempted to slip into hiding, Paul told Timothy to step it up.

I believe God is calling us to do the same. If we’ve accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’ve got the spark of the Holy Spirit burning within us. But our heart is much like the trees in a forest. We share the same flame, but some trees are more combustible than others. Some are doused in flame retardants (sin, distractions, and all those temporary fillers that steal our time and dull our hearts), others are ready to ignite.

What’s your heart like? Is it prepared to be set on fire or have you allowed it to smolder? If the latter is true, will you fan your heart and your gifts into flames?

Each time we draw near to God, each time we dig into His Word and spend time in heart-felt prayer, each time we use the gifts He gives to serve others, our flame grows. Every time we squelch our flame with sin, selfishness, and those temporary fillers that distract us from our true need, our tiny flame smolders.

The match is lit. Let it burn, my friend!

Let’s talk about this!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about fanning into flame our gifts and our heart so we can live on fire for Christ.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you think it means to fan our spiritual gifts into flames? What are some practical steps we can take to ignite our passion for Christ? What are those things that “douse” our passion?

Oh, and I almost forgot! Barbjan (who entered by subscribing) won a free copy of Eileen Rife’s novel, Second Chance! I’ll contact you by email to get your address soon!

Are You Teaching Fear or Faith?

About a month ago, while prepping me for a root canal, the dental hygienist and I began talking about youth group mission trips. Our family had recently returned from El Salvador (you can read about our trip here) and were anxious to go back. After listening to me share all the things my daughter learned on our trip, things she couldn’t have learned any other way, the woman said, “I’d love for my daughter to go on a mission trip, but…” Then she went on to explain all the reasons she felt her child couldn’t go. Basically, she expanded on fears every parent feels before releasing their child into God’s hands.

While reading 2 Timothy, I reviewed our conversation and thought about my own parenting. Thinking of all the fears I have as a mom, of all the ways I try to shelter our daughter, I had to ask myself a difficult question: Am I teaching fear or faith? Because as I shared a while back in When is Helping Hurting, everything we do as parents forms attitudes and creates habits. We can tout the verses, verses like “offer your body as a living sacrifice…” and “carry your cross daily…” or “but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it…” But if our actions don’t mirror our words–if we create barriers instead of launching pads–they mean little.

In 2 Timothy chapter 1, Paul, Timothy’s spiritual father, demonstrated what it means to train faith, not fear. Writing from a prison cell, with scars, and perhaps even open wounds, marring his body, having been beaten again and again for his faith, he told Timothy to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave him. Not to hide out in fear and self-preservation, but to be bold and courageous, moving forward in the power, love, and self-discipline God provided.

Now take a moment to place yourself in Timothy’s position. You and Paul parted in tears, not knowing if Paul would be brutally murdered, beaten near death, or released. And now, during a time of extreme persecution, Christians are hiding in homes to avoid martyrdom and your leader, the man you’ve come to love as a dear father, sits in a dark, damp prison cell. And what does Paul tell you to do?

“So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” 2 Timothy 1:8

Timothy, do not be ashamed. Don’t be afraid, but be prepared to suffer with me. Lay it all on the line, even your very life, for the sake of the gospel and the One who defeated death when He died on the cross.

And now I ask you, are you teaching fear or faith?

Join us at Living by Grace where we’re talking about tangible ways we can train faith, not fear, in our children.